Six Harlan High School students and an adult are facing charges for illegally killing deer. Dave Tierney, an Iowa D.N.R. conservation officer for Shelby County, says the poaching investigation began in late October. “I started receiving reports of deer that had been shot and left, in some cases with their heads cut off,” Tierney told Radio Iowa.
“I had a land owner who physically chased some spot lighters and bow hunters who witnessed, towards dusk, vehicles shooting at deer and then taking off.” The suspects are accused of taking at least 12 deer over the past six weeks. The six boys charged in the case are between the ages of 16 and 18 and are from the towns of Portsmouth, Harlan, Panama, Shelby and Defiance.
A father of one of the boys, 50-year-old Randy Bruck of Portsmouth, is also charged. Tierney says a vehicle description and other tips led officers to Harlan High School. “That’s when the investigation really started focusing on these individuals,” Tierney said. “I had other kids in the school system, hunters themselves, who were very concerned themselves and they were giving information too.”
Tierney say the teens were interviewed on Tuesday of this week and each individual confessed to the poaching activity. He says, unfortunately, these type of cases are becoming more common in Iowa. “The old type of poaching was someone would go out and shoot the deer for something to eat and that type of thing,” Tierney said. “We do have cases now, with the deer the size they are, people are shooting these big deer and cutting their heads off.”
The charges in the case include unlawful possession of deer, hunting by artificial light, unlawful taking of deer out of season by firearm and pursuing deer with a motor vehicle. Depending on the size of the deer, the fine for poaching ranges between $10,000 and $20,000.
“We have to keep in mind that we’re talking about 16 and 17 year old kids who didn’t make the best decision, but that is up to the court system,” Tierney said. In addition to three counts of illegal possession of deer, Randy Bruck is charged with interference with official acts.
The teens charged in the case are identified as Benjamin Bruck, Jared Klein, Taylor Assmann, Lucas Musich, Dylan Barrett and Josh Schaben. All seven individuals face the suspension of hunting privileges and the D.N.R. seized two shotguns and one muzzleloader. Tierney says Harlan police, Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and conservation officers from Pocahontas, Montgomery, Greene and Carroll Counties assisted in the investigation.